Sedation dentistry refers to the use of sedation during dental treatment. Sedation is most commonly used during extensive procedures, for patients with dental phobia or for patients who find it difficult to sit still. There are different types of sedation, including nitrous oxide ("laughing gas"), IV sedation, oral sedatives and general anesthetic.
Sedation can range from the use of nitrous oxide to calm a patient to general anesthetics used to put patients to sleep. Patients with dental phobia, low pain tolerance, major dental treatment, physical handicaps or strong gag reflexes may require sedation. Procedures like fillings, crowns, bridges, root canals, extractions, cosmetic procedures and periodontal treatments often require some sort of sedation.
Sedation is endorsed by the American Dental Association and is an effective way to make many patients comfortable during their dental visit. Before using a sedative or anesthetic, it is important to tell your dentist about any medications or medical treatments you are receiving. Before administering any sedative or anesthetic, your dentist will talk to you about the process of sedation and pre-and post-sedation instructions.
Nitrous Oxide (N2O) "Laughing Gas"
Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as “laughing gas,” is often used as a conscious sedative during a dental visit. The gas is administered with a mixture of oxygen and has a calming effect that helps phobic or anxious patients relax during their dental treatment. Because it is a mild sedative, patients are still conscious and can talk to their dentist during their visit. After treatment, the nitrous is turned off and oxygen is administered for 5-10 minutes to help flush any remaining gas. The effects wear off almost immediately. Nitrous oxide rarely has side effects, although some patients may experience minor nausea and constipation. Your doctor will provide you with pre-and post-sedation instructions.
IV Conscious Sedation
Intravenous (“IV”) sedation is sometimes known as “sleep dentistry” or “twilight dentistry”, and involves administering a dose of sedatives directly into the bloodstream via an IV. IV sedation is highly effective for patients who are fearful or anxious about their dental visits, as the IV sedatives will calm the patient. It also acts as an amnesiac, causing them to not remember the dental operation afterwards, even though the patient will remain conscious and responsive during the procedure. Our office will provide you with detailed pre- and post-procedure instructions involving IV sedation.
If only part of your mouth needs numbing for a certain procedure, you will be given a local anesthetic. The most common type is lidocaine, but there are others. The numbing medication will be administered into your gum or cheek using a needle.
Using a local anesthetic is beneficial because the patient is still conscious, able to answer questions yet not feel any pain while undergoing treatment. You will also be able to drive yourself home after the procedure.